June 20, 2011
Publishers Attempt to Control the International Flow of Information: Read your license renewals carefully
The ARL Task Force on International Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Practices (chaired by James Neal, University Librarian at Columbia University) published a 29-page report this month this month outlining the isolatist position that publishing houses (like Elsevier, Wiley, etc.) are taking on the time honored practices we commonly refer to as ILL.
The task force was formed to study the current international ILL practices of research librarians in light of some concerns raised regarding the delivery of resources from US libraries to non-US libraries (because these non-US libraries are not subject to the restrictions set out in the US copyright law). The concerns were raised by select scientific, technical, and medical publishers (a/k/a STM).
According to Michal Kelly at LJ, ARL Task Force member Brandon Butler stated that "STM has been going to ARL members and saying that they need to ask for the publisher's permission before engaging in international ILL, or risk being in violation of U.S. copyright law."
I find the logic of these STM concerns a bit confusing. If the library is in the United States, it operates within the confines of the Copyright Law (unless the library signs its rights away in a licensing agreement I suppose). I do not see how a library would violate the law regardless of where the end user is located. In fact, point 5 of the 11 Task Force findings inform us that U.S. Copyright law supports this practice. STM members need to take Copyright 101.
The Report also addressed two of the latest developments in lending: e-books and digital article delivery. With respect to digital delivery of articles, the Task Force stated that a review of research library licensing agreements indicated that most permitted interlibrary loan/document delivery and did not restrict delivery to U.S. institutions.
I think we should all carefully look at renewal contracts to see if publishers start adding language that limits the geographic range of your document delivery services. Afterall, in its response to the Report STM states:
Currently, there are few copyright exceptions and limitations regarding document delivery in the digital environment, but it is possible that their introduction might be contemplated or that the application of other exceptions to digital document delivery is put forward.
As e-books are an even younger kid on the block, the Task Force recommends that libraries and publishers use this opportunity to develop model ILL licensing language. Key features to include in license language are:
- Confine restraints on ILL permissions to the lending libraries
- Do not restrict ILL to the same country
- Allow use of a digital copy of the electronic article without printing prior to sending through Ariel or Ariel-like software
Well, that would be great and progressive. Getting them to agree to model licensing terms for digital material is a high hurdle to jump. In its response, STM issued a series of principles to consider which only allows ILL and document delivery to be done in print and physically retrieved at the lending library. E-mail or drop box delivery would not be allowed. And, specifically for international lending, STM would require the publishers permission and an additional fee - though I often run into additional fees already.
Based on their response, I remain skeptical that publishers will work with us to develop model license terms that are fair. However, I would wager that librarians might find the model language useful to consult and use in their contracts - much like using the Yale Licensing Terms and Descriptions which can help define parameters with publishers. Maybe we will see some development on that front by ARL, ALA or even IFLA. I already know AALL won't do or say anything to support librarians when pitted against publishers. (VS)